If Silicon Valley has an angel, it’s Ron Conway, the legendary early stage investor who has backed many of the greatest Internet start-ups including Google and Facebook. Last week at the Social Currency Crunchup at Stanford University, I had the good fortune to sit down with Conway for a few minutes
to talk about technology, entrepreneurs, investors and the next big thing in the Valley.
In his avuncular selflessness, in his apparent concern for everything and everyone but himself and in that reassuring thick shock of silver hair, there’s certainly something angelic about Conway. But dig a bit into Ron Conway and you get a sense that behind all that reasonableness there’s a remarkably shrewd operator who has minted a fortune for himself, his investors and his entrepreneurs. My sense – for what it’s worth – is that the guy has multi-million dollar eyes. He is a brilliant watcher, an acutely sophisticated observer of the tech space, a remarkably perceptive businessman who doesn’t miss a trick. That’s where his unique talent lies and that’s why he is amongst the greatest early stage investors of our times.
Conway talks about “pattern recognition” being his most potent weapon in determining whether or not to invest in companies and people. But that pattern recognition has come from watching the successes and failures of entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg, Fanning and Parker. So my advice to entrepreneurs is to watch Conway closely, here and elsewhere, so that when you pitch him, he gets to see what he wants to see. And you better make that impression quickly. As Conway confessed to me last week, he can make up his mind about the value of entrepreneurs in under five minutes.
Part I – Ron Conway on the next big investment opportunities: On social, real-time data, social currency and why there’s still opportunity in search.
Part II – Why anytime is a good time to be an entrepreneur: On success rates for technology entrepreneurs, what failures teaches and why the 2001 bubble was “catastrophic”.
Part III -Why an entrepreneur is always an entrepreneur: On the genetics of being an entrepreneur, why entrepreneurs are all a little edgy, and why Mark Zuckerberg was destined to be an entrepreneur.
Part IV – What makes a good investor: On his huge rolodex, how he reads people and why he was born to be an investor.
Part V – What comes after social: On 10 years of massive growth for social, on the cloud & CRM, and why he never worries about the future.